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Skills shortage is a demographical timebomb say skills council

Civil engineering could lose up to 20% of its manpower over the next ten years in a 'workforce time bomb' say the industry’s sector skills council ConstructionSkills.

The problem of an ageing workforce across the construction industry is most pronounced in the manual workforce, but professional trades such as architecture, mechanical and civil engineering could also lose up to 20% of their manpower to retirement in the next ten years.

Incoming ConstructionSkills CEO Mark Farrar said "We haven’t had a workforce this old since the Second World War when the construction workforce was hit by conscription and severe labour shortages."

Despite 20% growth in the construction workforce since the early-1990s, the expansion has been uneven across different age groups, according to ConstructionSkills. The number of older workers (aged 60 and over) in the industry has doubled over this time period, while those aged 24 and under has fallen by 27%.

Latest analysis from ConstructionSkills shows that recruitment and, in particular, diversity in the industry is not increasing enough to meet the skills gap. While construction has seen an increase in the overall numbers of women and ethnic minorities entering the industry, the actual proportion of the diverse workforce has only kept pace with overall growth: fluctuating between 10-12% (females) and 2-4% (BMEs) since 1990. This is still significantly below the current all-industry figure of 46% and 8% respectively.

The warning to construction employers to recruit and train more diverse employees comes at the launch of ‘Positive Image’, a recruitment campaign which aims to tackle the problem.

Farrar said: "It’s time for employers to act. Construction faces a serious skills shortfall but this year, ConstructionSkills has received five applicants for every available training place. As well as making more training places available, construction employers need to be more open-minded about who the perfect candidate might be. Last year we saw a 19% increase in female apprentice applications, but we were unable to translate this into the same increase in females placed. The industry needs to support potential new entrants and tap into the opportunity to recruit non-traditional applicants."

Business Minister at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, Baroness Shriti Vadera, said: "A skilled workforce is crucial to the success of the construction industry. That is why the Government is working with ConstructionSkills and other industry bodies as part of our Sustainable Construction agenda, making sure the sector remains an attractive career option for young people from all backgrounds, with opportunities for training and development at every level."

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